TIME FOR A BEFITTING RESPONSE
TGUEST COLUMN he nation has been assured in no uncertain terms by the government that the supreme sacrifice of 19 brave soldiers, who were martyred on September 18, 2016, in the Uri sector, will not go in vain. The prime minister, while condemning the dastardly terror attack warned that those behind it shall not go unpunished. While almost all cabinet ministers echoed these sentiments, Minister of State Dr Jitendra Singh emphasised the need for action against the perpetrators and said that inaction would be tantamount to cowardice. It is evident the Uri attack has finally breached the threshold of India’s tolerance.
It seems that the Pakistani authorities, especially the army, have failed to take note of the changing political and strategic climate in India. The idealistic approach of yesteryear is slowly but surely being replaced by a more realistic and robust policy visàvis Pakistan. The government, having exhausted all possible friendly options, is finally prepared to pay Pakistan back in its own coin, and speak in the language it understands. The prime minister had given enough indicators of this emerging shift in our policy during his Independence Day speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort, and even during the recent 2016 G20 Hangzhou summit and the Vientiane East Asia Summit.
Any military response against Pakistan should be part of a wellchalkedout strategy, and not just an angerdriven retaliatory action. The lessons of Operation Parakram— undertaken in the aftermath of the Pakistansponsored terror attack on our Parliament in December 2001—must be factored into the current strategy, so that the national initiative does not peter out without giving us the desired political and military dividends. The most important lesson from Parakram was that any application of military force at the national level must be in concert with the diplomatic, economic and informational Elements of National Power (EsNP). A standalone military application is inadequate to assert our national will. To coerce Pakistan to desist from nurturing and exporting terror, not just to India, but even to other countries in the region, our national strategy has to be allencompassing and multipronged. It must bring on board all nations that have been bled by terror attacks.
Conceptually, the use of military force should be able to withstand jus ad bellum scrutiny. This means that ‘hard power’ must always be applied as a last resort. This has been aptly demonstrated by the government. The prime minister has left no stone unturned in reaching out to his counterpart in Pakistan, to strengthen bilateral relations. Moreover, the force being used should be measured and applied in a manner that allows for the attainment of our political objective(s). Once the political goahead has been given, the military aspect—including ‘when, where and how’, should be left entirely to military commanders.
We are justified in finally adopting an aggressive national policy, one that will inflict excruciating pain on Pakistan, through a comprehensive initiative entailing a coordinated employment of all EsNP. Diplomatic isolation, the use of economic pressure points, enhancing the Pakistani army’s commitments in its internal security, staking claim to own areas, highlighting the atrocities of the Pakistani army against the Balochis, and calibrated, overt and covert military operations to cause attrition on the Pakistani army and its asymmetric capabilities are some of the prongs of this strategy.
Pakistan’s nuclear sabrerattling should not deter us from implementing our strategy in earnest. However, a detailed analysis of the risks and our ability to effectively deal with any escalation must be factored into the military operational art. Hardening of civil areas, along with sprucing up of civil defence mechanisms, is imperative to ensure that our populace is insulated from the spillover effects of any conflict. Also, to neutralise the rhetoric from Pakistan about its irrational nuclear intent, we need to evolve and implement an enduring public information and perception management plan that gives a strong message to Pakistani decisionmakers that any nuclear misadventure would invite a massive retaliation, the consequences of which will be horrendous for Pakistan.
Logically, the nation, fatigued by our traditional laissez faire policy of inaction and passivity, expected a posthaste retribution from the present government. However, it must be noted that the Pakistani military, while launching terrorist strikes, always adopts precautionary defensive measures, fearing an immediate retaliation. Therefore, the timing of our response assumes importance, along with the selection of the target, which when hit must inflict agonising effects on the adversary. Suffice it to say that our military has comprehensive plans for all possible contingencies; however, the adoption of any plan requires political approval. Given the government’s decisiveness and resolve, it is evident that Pakistan shall not go unpunished. Let the time and place of our response take the Pakistani military by surprise.
For any security strategy to succeed, national unity is vital, as ‘one national voice’ helps in attaining optimal multiagency and multistakeholder synergy. Let us, as a great nation, stand united for a righteous cause.